"Calla Cthulhu" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Written by Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer
Illustrated by Erin Humiston
Colored by Bill Mudron
2017, 256 Pages
Trade paperback released on August 16th, 2017
Calla Tafali has had a rough life already and she's only a teenager. Both of her parents have died, strange monsters and assassins are trying to kill her, and she just found out she's related to the Great Old Ones that Lovecraft talked about way back when. Will she give in to her destiny to awaken the ancient gods sleeping in R'lyeh? Or will she save humanity?
I'm a bit out of the target demographic for Calla Cthulhu, however there's a lot to enjoy here for any age. Calla is a typical angsty teenager, but she's on her own in a big, creepy house. She's rebelling against just about everyone since she doesn't have parents to rein her in.
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Despite the bad hand she's been dealt, Calla is still a hero. The opening scene has her fighting a tentacled creature in the sewer to save a little kid. She's not doing it to showboat or to make a name for herself; it's because she saw a kid that needed some help. That's what gives mankind hope that she won't end the world.
The design for Calla is fitting for her character and her lineage, especially with her hair. It's green and, although it's tied up in two buns on either side of head, it's often spiraling outward like tentacles. This serves as a subtle link to her ancestors. Calla sports ripped jeans, boots, and a jacket. She is the epitome of the cool girl loner.
The Lovecraftian elements weave seamlessly into the story without overpowering it. Yes, the book is called Calla Cthulhu, but it's really about her and not all of the monsters that she encounters. Writers Evan Dorkin and Sarah Dyer work these ideas into the book organically, linking Calla to various creatures such as Hastur, who serves as her uncle. It builds on top of Lovecraft's work, adding a modern spin and connecting it to the present day.
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Artist Erin Humiston's work fits the book terrifically. He has a cartoony style that keeps the comic light and fresh, even with Calla is fighting for her life. It would have been easy to have a doom and gloom look considering the subject matter. Instead, it has a nice flare to it that builds excitement over time. Bill Mudron's colors amplify that with a vibrant palette. Everything is seen in great detail without lurking in the shadows which is so often the case in Lovecraftian comics.
This was originally published on the mobile app, Stela, so I was curious to see how it read in print as the two formats are very different. You basically keep scrolling down in Stela instead of turning pages. It's a little smaller than a normal-sized comic, but there's nothing unusual about how it's assembled.
Calla Cthulhu, aside from having a catchy title, is a fast-moving coming-of-age tale. It has a strong female lead who is thrown into an unusual and increasingly bizarre situation. Instead of complaining about it on Instagram, she's standing up for herself and doing something about it.